Research shows that students who participate in visual arts see greater success in academia, and have better social skills and higher self-confidence through team-building and ensemble work. They also learn empathy, analytical skills and build soft skills that support complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity. As a result, students who are engaged in arts are more interested in school, maintain their attendance, and make better grades.
For a time, arts programs were being cut from public schools in order to save money, but now that is changing.
“The arts are becoming part of cross-curricular learning, where art subjects are worked into all disciplines such as history, and the sciences,” said Emily MacIntyre, Education Director of the Mizel Arts and Culture Center at the Staenberg-Loup Jewish Community Center (JCC Denver). “With a focus on STEAM, SEL (Social, Emotional Learning) and The Whole Child, schools are now deliberately integrating arts into the curriculum in several ways. The first is by employing special teachers who divide their time between schools teaching everything from theater to music to visual arts.”
Denver public schools are also teaming up with the Scientific and Cultural Collaborative (SCC), an organization that connects schools with the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) to bring in artists, scientists, and other experts who can enrich students with their knowledge. The SCFD funds cultural activities in Denver, something that few other cities or states have, in order to support creative and artistic organizations.
“For example, one of our workshops that goes out to the schools combines art with geometry, which offers kids a new way to look at both subjects” said MacIntyre. “We are committed to cultivating an inclusive community with the focus on respect and group participation. What’s cool about the JCC is that kids find friendships in an artistic community, and no matter at what age the kids are when they arrive, I see a surge in their self-confidence levels.”
In addition, robust after-school programs in Denver public schools are serving kids by bringing in activities that connect them to art. After-school programming, typically presented by outside companies and artisans, are brought in by the schools, rich in both arts and sports allowing parents to choose soccer on Monday and Theatre on Tuesday. The Mizel Arts and Culture Center is partnering with a company called PlayOn! to bring quality theatre programming into schools in this way.
Encourage Kids to Tell Their Stories
According to MacIntyre, the best way parents can help their kids flourish in the world of art is to expose them to as many different experiences as possible early on to see what makes their eyes light up. These activities may include anything from attending orchestral performances to seeing plays, concerts, the ballet, museums, musical theater, and art exhibitions. Once their interests are identified, families can explore a wide variety of community camps and cultural after-school programs.
“Here at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, we encourage kids to tell their stories,” added MacIntyre. “This provides students the artistic skills to discover their own creative voice, which is at the heart of what we do. All our kids are seen and known by their peers and teachers and come back time and time again to learn more. We don’t even have to tell kids to embrace the new students. They just do it. They automatically make them part of the pack.
“At the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, we hope to create lifelong patrons of the arts and provide the public with a strong connection to their creative passions.” The center does this by offering a range of programs and classes, where local artists are recruited by word-of-mouth and carefully vetted so that their teaching techniques align with the values of the JCC. “The teachers we bring in respect children; when students feel that, trust grows on both sides,” said MacIntyre.
“The Mizel Arts and Culture Center is also the home of the Denver Children’s Theater. Our robust arts education program supplements what’s offered in schools, and for those who wish to become career artists, even as early as five years old through their teenage years, we provide serious training where students work with professionals in visual and performing arts. This provides the kids with a solid foundation and a springboard to launch them into the world of the arts.”
The Mizel Arts and Culture Center at the Staenberg-Loup Jewish Community Center in Denver offers visual arts and theater courses during the school year and all summer long through its Mizel Arts and Culture Center Academies. The courses run year-round and are led by artists themselves, who create in the morning and teach in the afternoon. The curriculum is built to encourage any student at any level of interest, talent or experience.
For details about future events and programs, visit The JCC Denver.